Thursday, December 30, 2010

Update on Roger Clement and Ottawa Comrades

Roger is still in prison. Claude is still going to court. People still need your love and support. OMD is still fund raising. Join the FB group, donate, write a letter to roger, get involved, support prisoners and political prisoners.

FB group:!/pages/Ottawa-Movement-Defense/119652828099161

We will be organizing a letter writing night for roger and other prisoners in early - mid january. And we are planning to have a fund raising party in the spring, hopefully around march. The J18 defendants still have significant legal costs, so if you can donate, it is much appreciated. Better yet, organize a fund-raiser in your community. Let us know what you are doing, and feel free to contact us if there is anything we can do to help, or if you would like someone from OMD to speak at your event.

What follows is a recent article by Sara Falconer from Ottawa XPress

Community Garden
Sara Falconer

Matthew Morgan-Brown is getting ready to visit Roger Clement in jail. It's only been a few short weeks since Morgan-Brown's own charges in the May 18 RBC firebombing were stayed due to lack of evidence, but already he is focused on making sure that his friend has the support he needs. Indeed, talking to him, it's clear that one of the things he found most difficult in the months following his arrest was not being able to help others. "Not being able to organize was really shitty. It's very important to me," he says. "The day they lifted my conditions I started organizing again." He has long been an active member of Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Movement Ottawa (IPSMO), and has now joined Ottawa Movement Defense, a group originally formed to support the three people arrested on June 18: himself, Joseph Roger Clement and Claude Haridge.

On Dec. 7, Clement was sentenced to a term of three years and six months, having pled guilty to the arson at the Glebe branch of the Royal Bank, as well as smashing windows and ATMs at a different branch in February. It's an unusually harsh sentence for property damage crimes, given that both the defence and Crown attorneys acknowledged he took great care to eliminate any possible injury to people.

In a statement, Ottawa Movement Defense said that they were inspired by Clement's strength of character: "Even when offered the chance to apologize for his role in the firebombing, Roger refused to do so, even though his liberty was on the line." The 58-year-old

former civil service employee is well known to local activists from years of social justice organizing. "I think he's a really principled person," says Morgan-Brown, who has known Clement for several years. Haridge, who was never charged with arson, has his last day in court this week. Most of the charges against him have been stayed, other than a charge for improper storage of ammunition, and unrelated charges from a protest several years ago.

The publication ban on the case has finally been lifted, but Morgan-Brown still finds it hard to speak freely. He's on a relatively short leash, as his charges have only been stayed, not dismissed - the Crown still has a year in which it can reinstate them.

Having spent time in jail before being released on bail, he knows first-hand how much community solidarity can mean. "When I was inside, I definitely felt like there was quite a bit of support," he says. "I enjoyed getting lots of letters."

Now working at his job again and devoting his spare time to activism, he says he is grappling with the psychological scars of the arrest and months of uncertainty. "The only concern I have is to avoid pushing myself too hard. It was definitely a traumatic experience."

As he looks forward to speaking to Clement for the first time since their arrests - albeit through a heavy plastic visiting window - he hopes that the community will continue to support them and other organizers fighting charges across the country. "My thoughts are with the people who were arrested on conspiracy or other G20 charges, with massive bail restrictions," he says. "People are looking at trials two years from now, because part of their punishment is those conditions, regardless of anything else around their cases."

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Prisoners on Strike in Georgia! Show Support!

A very important message, sent from friends at defenstrator:

Now in it's 2nd day with rumors the strikes have spread to up to ten prisons. Prison officials are reported to be threatening disproportionate levels of repression. Please show support!!


Please urgently call each of the numbers below to protest any violence on the part of the guards or prison officials against a non-violent, multi-racial, one day strike.

When we called, the person put the phone down on us as soon as we said what we were calling about. So please get the name of the person who answers first so that you can then complain about them putting the phone down -- in writing if necessary.

Please forward widely to your networks!
Published on Black Agenda Report (

GA Prison Inmates Stage 1-Day Peaceful Strike Today

By BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

In an action which is unprecedented on several levels, black, brown and white inmates of Georgia's notorious state prison system are standing together for a historic one day peaceful strike today, during which they are remaining in their cells, refusing work and other assignments and activities. This is a groundbreaking event not only because inmates are standing up for themselves and their own human rughts, but because prisoners are setting an example by reaching across racial boundaries which, in prisons, have historically been used to pit oppressed communities against each other. PRESS RELEASE BELOW THE FOLD

The action is taking place today in at least half a dozen of Georgia's more than one hundred state prisons, correctional facilities, work camps, county prisons and other correctional facilities. We have unconfirmed reports that authorities at Macon State prison have aggressively responded to the strike by sending tactical squads in to rough up and menace inmates.

Outside calls from concerned citizens and news media will tend to stay the hand of prison authorities who may tend to react with reckless and brutal aggression. So calls to the warden's office of the following Georgia State Prisons expressing concern for the welfare of the prisoners during this and the next few days are welcome.

  • Macon State Prison is 978-472-3900.
  • Hays State Prison is at (706) 857-0400
  • Telfair State prison is 229-868-7721
  • Baldwin State Prison is at (478) 445- 5218
  • Valdosta State Prison is 229-333-7900
  • Smith State Prison is at (912) 654-5000
  • The Georgia Department of Corrections is at and their phone number is 478-992-5246

This is all the news we have for now, more coming.

One in every thirteen adults in the state of Georgia is in prison, on parole or probation or some form of court or correctional supervision.


Press Release


Thousands of Georgia Prisoners to Stage Peaceful Protest

December 8, 2010…Atlanta, Georgia

Contacts: Elaine Brown, 404-542-1211, ;Valerie Porter, 229-931-5348, ; Faye Sanders, 478-550-7046,

Tomorrow morning, December 9, 2010, thousands of Georgia prisoners will refuse to work, stop all other activities and remain in their cells in a peaceful, one-day protest for their human rights. The December 9 Strike is projected to be the biggest prisoner protest in the history of the United States.

These thousands of men, from Baldwin, Hancock, Hays, Macon, Smith and Telfair State Prisons, among others, state they are striking to press the Georgia Department of Corrections (“DOC”) to stop treating them like animals and slaves and institute programs that address their basic human rights. They have set forth the following demands:
  • A LIVING WAGE FOR WORK: In violation of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution prohibiting slavery and involuntary servitude, the DOC demands prisoners work for free.
  • EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES: For the great majority of prisoners, the DOC denies all opportunities for education beyond the GED, despite the benefit to both prisoners and society.
  • DECENT HEALTH CARE: In violation of the 8th Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishments, the DOC denies adequate medical care to prisoners, charges excessive fees for the most minimal care and is responsible for extraordinary pain and suffering.
  • AN END TO CRUEL AND UNUSUAL PUNISHMENTS: In further violation of the 8th Amendment, the DOC is responsible for cruel prisoner punishments for minor infractions of rules.
  • DECENT LIVING CONDITIONS: Georgia prisoners are confined in over-crowded, substandard conditions, with little heat in winter and oppressive heat in summer.
  • NUTRITIONAL MEALS: Vegetables and fruit are in short supply in DOC facilities while starches and fatty foods are plentiful.
  • VOCATIONAL AND SELF-IMPROVEMENT OPPORTUNITIES: The DOC has stripped its facilities of all opportunities for skills training, self-improvement and proper exercise.
  • ACCESS TO FAMILIES: The DOC has disconnected thousands of prisoners from their families by imposing excessive telephone charges and innumerable barriers to visitation.
  • JUST PAROLE DECISIONS: The Parole Board capriciously and regularly denies parole to the majority of prisoners despite evidence of eligibility.

Prisoner leaders issued the following call: "No more slavery. Injustice in one place is injustice to all. Inform your family to support our cause. Lock down for liberty!"

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Three and a Half Years for Roger Clement

From today's CBC:
A retired civil servant who firebombed a Royal Bank branch in Ottawa's Glebe neighbourhood in May has been sentenced to 3½ years in prison for arson.

Roger Clement, 58, pleaded guilty last month to arson causing damage and mischief in the May 18 firebombing of the Bank Street bank branch.

The court also sentenced Clement to an additional six months in prison on the mischief charge. However, the judge credited Clement with 5½ months for time already served.

Clement said during his sentencing hearing on Monday that the firebombing was a protest against the bank's connections to the Alberta oilsands and the Vancouver Olympics.

Clement poured gasoline in front of the bank's ATM machines while his accomplices ignited the fuel with a Molotov cocktail before running off.

No one was injured in the fire, which caused an estimated $1.6 million in damage.

Clement expressed regret during the first day of his sentencing hearing on Monday over the inconvenience he caused for the "high cost" of his incarceration. He also expressed regret that he will no longer be able to fulfil his obligations to friends and what's left of his family.

Clement's lawyer, Lawrence Greenspon, told the court on Monday that his client was left to care for a mentally ill brother after his mother died, and both his father and sister committed suicide.

He had argued his client should only serve three years because the attack on the branch at Bank Street and First Avenue was out of character and Clement isn't likely to reoffend.

The Crown had been seeking five to six years.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Defying the Tomb: Selected Prison Writings and Art of Kevin "Rashid" Johnson featuring exchanges with an Outlaw

This is the latest book published by Kersplebedeb, and i am pleased to say copies have now arrived, and are ready to ship out!
Follow the author's odyssey from lumpen drug dealer to prisoner, to revolutionary New Afrikan, a teacher and mentor, one of a new generation rising of prison intellectuals. This book consists primarily of letters between Rashid and Outlaw, another revolutionary New Afrikan prisoner, smuggled between the segregation wing and general population over a period of months. These comrades educate themselves - and us as well - on Marxism and Maoism, the Five-Percenters, Dialectical Materialism, Dead Prez, Capitalism, Racism, Imperialism, Class Struggle, Revolutionary Nationalism, New Afrikan Independence, Psychology, and a host of other subjects, as they grapple with how to promote revolutionary consciousness in the most hostile of environments.

Rashid has been in prison for twenty years - the past eighteen of which in segregation (solitary confinement). Shortly after this correspondence between himself and Outlaw, he and his comrade Shaka Sankofa Zulu founded the New Afrikan Black Panther Party–Prison Chapter. The NABPP-PC has since developed branches in various prisons across the u$ empire and has its own newsletter, Right On!

A number of Rashid's essays written as Minister of Defense of the NABPP-PC are also included in this book.

For more about Rashid, including links to his writings available online, please visit the Kersplebedeb website.

What the Comrades Say

"Kevin 'Rashid' Johnson has put together an outstanding compendium of political essays and letters that addresses many of the critical issues of today. His intra-prison correspondences with his comrade, Outlaw, is a rewarding study in the determined and ingenious maneuvers that prisoners have to go through to politically educate and organize themselves – and others around them. As a result, just reading the book itself provides one with the basic foundation of a political education."
- from the Afterword by Sundiata Acoli, New Afrikan political prisoner of war

"Your mission (should you decide to accept it) is to buy multiple copies of this book, read it carefully, and then get it into the hands of as many prisoners as possible. I am aware of no prisoner-written book more important than this one, at least not since George Jackson’s Blood In My Eye. Revolutionaries and those considering the path of progress will find Kevin “Rashid” Johnson’s Defying The Tomb an important contribution to their political development."
- Ed Mead, former political prisoner, George Jackson Brigade

"The correspondence of Rashid and Outlaw, carried on within the tenuous cracks of a supermax prison, offers the reader a compelling blend of psychological insight, political analysis, and passion for learning. Their defiance in the face of oppression is matched by their broad human solidarity. As they grapple with ideas, they also think as organizers, probing the dispositions and motivations of their fellow prisoners. Their struggle for justice is informed by a commitment to reason."
- Victor Wallis, Professor, Liberal Arts Department, Berklee College of Music

Product Details
price: $20.00
386 pages
published by Kersplebedeb in 2010
ISBN 978-1-894946-39-1

To order, all you have to do is click right here!

News and Analyses from BASICS Community News Service

BASICS is newspaper put out by some revolutionaries in Toronto, with a popular and working class orientation.  Would definitely say it's worth checking out... material from the latest issue is going up online, here's a list of some of the pieces:

Also, be sure to listen to this important discussion on Radio Basics (November 22, 2010), about Fascism and Anti-Fascism in Canada Today, including a discussion with a victim of a recent Nazi home invasion. Anti-Racist Action member Jason Devine is interviewed about the home invasion he suffered at the hands of neo-Nazis on the night of Nov 7-8, while his four children and wife were in the house. The Nazi thugs beat him and another friend with bats, hammers, and other blunt weapons. Includes a discussion of fascist and anti-fascist politics across Canada and throughout history.

The hardcopy of Issue #24 is coming out in early December. To help with community distribution, please contact them at

Monday, November 22, 2010

"Abu Ghraib Comes to Amerika: Torture Unit Under Construction at Virginia’s Red Onion State Prison" by Kevin "Rashid" Johnson

Kevin "Rashid" Johnson, New Afrikan Black Panther Party-Prison Chapter Minister of Defense, and author of the recent book Defying the Tomb (available from, has written an important expose of a new torture unit being constructed in Virginia's Red Onion prison.

The entire article, with footnotes, has been posted to the Kersplebedeb website, and is also available as a PDF from here.

In it, Rashid details the plans for this sensory deprivation unit, where cells are to be constructed out of steel, and prisoners will be required to hand over their bedding first thing in the morning, leaving them to sit or stand of cold steel all day long. Cells will have no access to natural light, and exercise will be in a cage, only a few hours each week, with strip searches in front of other prisoners and staff enforced both before and after.

This new torture unit is to be justified by the invented problem of prisoner violence at Red Onion. As Rashid notes, quoting a prisoner whose observations were cited in a 1999 report from Human Rights Watch to the effect that, "Inmate on inmate violence virtually does not exist [at Red Onion]. Inmate on guard violence virtually does not exist here. Guard on inmate violence is high."

Indeed, Rashid reveals how the prison authorities have been instigating white-on-black racism and violence in order to create a pretext for this new unit.

Finally, this is an important piece as it places torture at Red Onion, and at Abu Ghraib before it, in the context of post-war amerika's investment in and development of "clean torture." As readers of this blog may be aware, such techniques were not only developed within the united states, but in other countries too, for instance in West Germany, where they were used to devastating effect against political prisoners. (See: Staying Alive: Sensory Deprivation, Torture, and the Struggle Behind Bars on the germanguerilla website.)

In March of 2009 Dr. Atul Gawande wrote an extensive piece on isolation, clearly detailing the psychological and physical harm that it can inflict on people (reposted here). But despite the grave harm is inflicts, isolation is the perfect punishment for a self-styled "democracy", for in leaving no physical trace it allows people to doubt that anything really horrible is going on. As such, isolation constitutes a particularly pernicious form of torture, one which is spreading throughout the prison system as inexorably as an oil slick.

To read "Abu Ghraib Comes to Amerika: Torture Unit Under Construction at Virginia’s Red Onion State Prison" in html click here, as a PDF click here.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Roger Clement Pleads Guilty in RBC Firebombing, Refuses to Rat Out

Roger Clement, one of the individuals charged with the attack on the RBC branch in Ottawa in April, has plead guilty. He remains steadfast in his refusal to provide information incriminating anyone else. Charges have been stayed against Matthew Morgan-Brown, who was initially also charged in this case.

Read more from Ottawa Movement Defense:
Tuesday November 9th, Ottawa Movement Defense

Update from Court Proceedings

In solidarity with our friends who are not free!

Today, Roger, one of the three June 18 arrestees, pled guilty to charges related to the arson of the RBC branch in the Glebe in May. Charges against Matt have been stayed. Charges against Claude related to a February 1st incident of mischief have also been stayed. However, Claude is still fighting other charges for which he was arrested on June 18th. [Please Note: Claude was never charged in relation to the arson, but was arrested at the same time as Matt and Roger and faced unrelated charges.]

This is heavy news for all of us, and we would like to take this opportunity to thank all who are standing by the three arrestees. By no means is this over. Roger returns to court for sentencing in early December. Ottawa Movement Defense would like to reiterate its full support for all three of the J18 defendants. This is a difficult process for all three arrestees, as well as their families, friends and coworkers who have been missing them.

Support for Roger is very important in the coming weeks while he awaits sentencing on December 6th. You can write to him at:

Joseph Roger Clement
Ottawa Carleton Detention Centre
2244 Innes Road
Gloucester, ON
K1B 4C4

We are also still taking donations to help with the legal costs.

Ottawa Movement Defense now has a bank account with the Ottawa Women's Credit Union. Cheques can be made out to 'Ottawa Movement Defense' and mailed to the mailing address below.

furthermore we would like to express our solidarity to all political prisoners, and wish the best to the G20 arrestees across Ontario who are currently going through the court system and fighting for their freedom.


Ottawa Movement Defense is a legal and political support committee for the June 18th Defendants. We take direction from the June 18th defendants. Our support activities include: coordinating visits, fundraising towards legal and support costs, informing friends and supporters of the court proceedings, etc. We do not provide legal advice to the defendants.


Mailing Address:
Ottawa Movement Defense
207 Bank Street
Suite 453
Ottawa, ON
K2P 2N2


What follows is a mainstream news story from the Ottawa Sun:

OTTAWA — The man who pleaded guilty to arson in the May firebombing of a bank refuses to rat out his accomplice.

Joseph Roger Clement admitted to being the first of two men to enter the RBC branch in the Glebe neighbourhood late on May 18. According to video evidence, the first man doused the bank with a liquid believed to be gasoline and the second man threw a Molotov cocktail, starting the blaze.

But Clement's lawyer, Lawrence Greenspon, said Clement taking responsibility doesn't extend to naming his accomplice.

Clement also pleaded guilty to mischief over $5,000 for vandalizing another RBC branch at 745 Bank St. on Feb. 1.

Charges against co-accused Matthew Morgan-Brown, 32, were stayed due to insufficient evidence.

Claude Haridge, a co-accused in the Feb. 1 vandalism case, was never directly implicated in the May firebombing. Charges against him from the vandalism case were stayed Tuesday but ammunition storage charges laid during the firebombing investigation will be dealt with Dec. 14.

Clement will be held in custody until his sentencing hearing Dec. 6.

Clement, 58, was brought into court in a rumpled tan blazer and blue shirt with no tie. The retired civil servant smiled, nodded and winked at some of those in court, including former co-accused Morgan-Brown in the front row.

"It's been a long time coming for him," said Greenspon. "He took responsibility for his actions at the time and he's now formally taken responsibility in court and will be facing sentencing."

Crown prosecutor Mark Holmes said there simply wasn't enough evidence to prosecute Morgan-Brown but said charges could be reinstated within a year.

"If more evidence comes to light, the Crown will proceed," he said.

Video evidence from the bank fire will be played at Clement's sentencing hearing next month.

Morgan-Brown's lawyer, Ian Carter, said the only evidence against his client was that two years ago he had a similar jacket to one worn by one of the firebombers.

He said Morgan-Brown was known to have been part of political protests and investigators perceived him as being among "the usual suspects."

"They simply didn't have enough evidence to place my guy as one of the individuals," said Carter, adding he's been told the investigation is no longer active.

Carter said Morgan-Brown hopes to get his old job back, but wouldn't say what that was.

Friday, October 22, 2010

2011 Slingshots!

2011 Slingshot Pocket Organizer2011 Slingshot Pocket Organizer

The 2011 slingshots are here! This is the classic, pocket version...
price: $8.00 (US)
Click here to order or for more information.

2011 Slingshot Large Organizer2011 Slingshot Large Organizer

They're back - the superb, beautiful, and ever-so-radical Slingshot yearbooks, for 2011!
price: $13.50 (US)
Click here to order or for more information.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Another Bust in Toronto: Court Support Needed This Morning!

College Park Courthouse
Yonge St. & College St.
Courtroom 507

At 10pm last night, 10 police officers arrested Jaroslava Avila outside Queens Park Subways, a prominent Indigenous sovereignty and solidarity activist from Chile. She will be appearing in court Thursday morning at 10am. Her family has called for supporters to be present in court.

Jaroslave has been arrested on G20 related conspiracy charges.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Prisoner being TORTURED at SCI Coal Township: Urgent Solidarity Needed!

The following is an Action Alert from the HRC-FedUp! Emergency Response Network, about prisoner-advocate Andre Jacobs who is being tortured in retaliation for his speaking up in defense of a fellow prisoner who was being deprived food.

Take action for one who has taken action for others!

Please take action immediately

HRC just received a report from Andre Jacobs' grandmother that last Thursday he was taken from his solitary confinement cell and strapped to a restraint chair for 17 straight hours after he spoke up in defense of another man being deprived food by guards.

See the Call-in Guide below and take action today. Forward this message wide and ask people to subscribe to our action alert list. Torture thrives in secrecy and we need numbers. Spread this on Facebook. Please help.

We only know of Andre's situation because his grandmother went to visit him today (Monday).

He has been held without clothing for days and given only a thin garment to cover himself. Andre has been deprived of showers, legal property, hygiene and cleaning items. This is the 2nd time Andre has been stripped of clothing and property in less than two months. He is not supposed to be given property or clothing until Thursday.

Please take action immediately. Andre Jacobs is a leader in the human rights struggle inside the prison walls and has been subjected to systematic, racist dehumanization by prison personnel with the full knowledge and consent of the DOC hierarchy for years. Just last week he was in Luzerne County for a preliminary hearing for "riot" charges stemming from a series of retaliatory assaults, taserings, and pepper-spraings perpetrated against himself and 6 others at SCI Dallas at the end of April. This incident is featured in the HRC report Resistance and Retaliation.

Andre is a 28-year-old jailhouse lawyer being targeted for neutralization because he inspires prisoners to stand up for their human rights, to fight racism via constitutionally-protected means, and to educate themselves and their families about the real function and purpose of these prisons.

HRC will send an update and call for further action later in the week. Thank you all for caring and taking action. It does matter. Please email and/or call 412-654-9070 and inform HRC that you have taken action. It helps us monitor the response and keep updated on the situation.

******* CALL-IN GUIDE **********************************

Please call
  • Supt. Varano 570.644.7890
  • Regional Secretary Klopotoski 717.975.4865
  • DOC Secretary Shirley Moore Smeal 717.975.4918
  • OPR Director Barnacle 717.214.8473

Also Representatives Waters, Vanessa Brown, and Caltigirone (who were at the recent hearing on solitary), local and federal law enforcement, and all other appropriate persons. (click the links for phone numbers)

Spread the word to anybody with the decency to speak out. Tell them you are with the Human Rights Coalition (if you want to be identified as such) and that these actions are criminal.

Inform the prison officials and legislators of the ongoing abuse. Tell them the details above.

Demand the following when speaking to the prison and the DOC officials:

1) Andre is to be given clothes immediately
2) Andre is to be given writing materials immediately
3) Andre is to be given his legal property immediately
4) Andre is to be given all his state issue items and personal property immediately
5) these racist guards are to keep their hands off of him and stop abusing him

Ask the following (specifically of SCI Coal Township, whose Supt. Assistant is Kandis Dascani--she will say confidentiality prevents her from speaking, don't fall for this, don't let her put you off, tie up her phone and do not lay off):
1) when did Varano authorize this?
2) what is the justification for this?
3) Does Andre have clothes yet? does he have his property? does he have writing materials?
4) what policy number and section is this authorized by?

Inform DOC officials: That HRC intends on filing criminal charges and launching an investigation into the systematic torture of prisoners at SCI Coal Township.

Request that legislators investigate the prison system.

Love, Solidarity, and Struggle,

HRC-Fed Up!
Contact Information


Click here to subscribe to the HRC's mailing list

Monday, September 27, 2010

Tell No Lies

Last week's Got Your Back conference included an interesting mix of speakers and workshops - and due to the physical layout of the event, for a change i actually got to listen in to the closing panel's each day, as they were in the area right next to where i was tabling

Just want to mention this real interesting observation by Dean Spade, founder of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, during Saturday's panel discussion on self-determination.

Dean explained that the hunger for funding, grants, subsidies, etc. leads many organizations to engage in dishonest practices, downplaying real defeats or else seizing on some partial symbolic victory and pretending it is a real victory. All in order to "look better" and get more $$$ in the grant-getting-game. He also explained how this can play out in legal-defense-oriented groups, where a choice may be made to concentrate on helping someone with a better chance of winning, because donors like to hear about victories - the corollary being that someone in really dire straits and facing really long odds would appear as a really unattractive "cause" to support.

Anyway, these were just a few observations made in a wide-ranging and interesting discussion, but they struck me as particularly important.

Hopefully the entire panel discussion will be up online soon...

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Call for Emergency Demonstrations Monday Against FBI

A call for action at Federal Buildings and FBI Offices.

We denounce the Federal Bureau of Investigation harassment of anti-war and solidarity activists. The FBI raided seven houses and an office in Chicago and Minneapolis on Friday, September 24, 2010. The FBI handed subpoenas to testify before a federal grand jury to eleven activists in Illinois, Minnesota, and Michigan. The FBI also attempted to intimidate activists in California and North Carolina.

This suppression of civil rights is aimed at those who dedicate their time and energy to supporting the struggles of the Palestinian and Colombian peoples against U.S. funded occupation and war. The FBI has indicated that the grand jury is investigating the activists for possible material support of terrorism charges.

The activists involved have done nothing wrong and are refusing to be pulled into conversations with the FBI about their political views or organizing against war and occupation. The activists are involved with many groups, including: the Twin Cities Anti-War Committee, the Palestine Solidarity Group, the Colombia Action Network, Students for a Democratic Society, and Freedom Road Socialist Organization. These activists came together with many others to organize the 2008 anti-war marches on the Republican National Convention in St. Paul.

We ask people of conscience to join us in fighting this political repression, as we continue working to build the movements against US war and occupation.

Take Action:

Call the U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder at 202-353-1555 or write an email to:

  • Stop the repression against anti-war and international solidarity activists.
  • Immediately return all confiscated materials: computers, cell phones, papers, documents, etc.
  • End the grand jury proceedings against anti-war activists.

Plan and Support national days of protest at FBI offices or Federal Buildings, September 27 and 28th. A demonstration has been called at the Minneapolis FBI Office Monday, 4:30, September 27th(111 Washington Ave. S.).

In Solidarity, the Anti-War Committee

from Twin Cities Indymedia

Friday, September 24, 2010

Friday Afternoon Update on Today's FBI Raids

From Twin Cities Indymedia:

UPDATE 4pm: The office of the Anti-War Committee was also reportedly raided earlier today. See also: Search warrant for Mick Kelly's residence and subpoena to Chicago grand jury (via
Press Conference: 4pm, 2911 Park Ave., Minneapolis
Community Meeting: 5:30pm, Walker Church, 3100 16th Ave S., Minneapolis
See also Fight Back News: Activists Denounce FBI Raids on Anti-War and Solidarity Activists' Homes
The social justice community in Minneapolis continued to respond Friday afternoon to the raids of several of its members homes, which started before 7am this morning. (See previous TCIMC article--Minneapolis Houses Raided)
Since then, a dozen activists have been served with grand jury subpoenas, including many in Minneapolis, according to Fight Back News.  It is believed the federal grand jury is centered in Chicago, and is investigating alleged ties to "foreign terrorist organizations"--a charge which activists have immediately dismissed as illegitimate and unjustified.
The Star Tribune reported earlier today that according to an FBI spokesperson, a total of six homes were raided in Minneapolis and two in Chicago.  This statement is unconfirmed by activists, who have identified at least four of the homes in Minneapolis--one above Hard Times Cafe in Cedar-Riverside, one north of Powderhorn Park, one on Park Avenue near Lake Street and one in Stevens Square.  Antiwar leaders have said that other members of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization were targeted with raids, surveillance and subpoenas in Michigan, North Carolina and potentially California.
Grand juries are a mechanism historically used to repress and gather information on unpopular social movements; no attorney or judge is present in a grand jury interrogation.  Activists who defy grand juries risking imprisonment on civil or criminal contempt.
Outside the raid above Hard Times Cafe, one person at the cafe as the raid began said that he saw about a dozen FBI agents, some with large guns, outside.  Conflicting reports from the other raids indicate that agents attempted to keep their presence low-key, without large marked vehicles or heavily armed SWAT teams--although Jess Sundin told the AP that a SWAT team entered her house first, then left to be replaced by other agents.  But outside Hard Times Cafe, a number of the unmarked vehicles included at least one with an "official business" sign from the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) in addition to the FBI.
The mood outside the cafe and apartment was one of defiance, with activists and supporters vowing solidarity in the face of repression.  Early in the afternoon, agents began to remove boxes with unknown contents from the apartment, and eventually departed.  The search warrant for 1823 Riverside called for search and seizure of such a laundry list of items, including electronic equipment, documents, financial records, literature, and more, that "it might have well just said 'everything'," someone remarked after seeing a copy.
The Uptake, in addition to almost every local corporate news outlet, was present at two of the raids in the morning and posted a short video report on their site. (Photo credit above)
No immediate information was available Friday afternoon about the raids in Chicago.  The FBI spokesman, however, said that like in the Minneapolis raids, there were no arrests.  He added to the AP in Chicago that there was no "imminent threat to the community" - raising the question of how anyone could be suspected of terrorist ties without an imminent danger.
The answer, of course, lies in the increasing trend of the state in using "terrorism" charges to justify repression against activists, lately in Minnesota through the Green Scare, the RNC 8, and as many have predicted might happen, now against antiwar activists as well.

Nationwide FBI Raids on Activists Going On - Minneapolis, Chicago, Michigan, NC

From Twin Cities Indymedia, about today's raids on Freedom Road Socialist Organization (Fightback) activists in the u.s.:

Three houses in Minneapolis raided, other houses in Michigan, NC, Chicago targeted.

Urgent – Community Meeting tonight! 5:30 pm Walker Church 3104 16th Ave S (Minneapolis) regarding the FBI Raids

On Friday morning, three houses in the Minneapolis area are believed to have been raided by SWAT Teams. While we have few details right now, the F.B.I. appears to be targeting people associated with the Freedom Road Socialist Organization. Besides the raids in Minneapolis, houses in Michigan, North Carolina and Chicago were also targeted.

Raids occurred at 1823 Riverside, above the Hard Times Cafe, and the 2900 block of Park Ave. One other raid is reported, as well. Outside Hard Times Cafe, three unmarked black SUVs (one with an Illinois license plate) sat in the parking area as of 10am, when a lawyer observed 8 FBI agents sitting in the residence examining materials. Otherwise the scene was calm.

Agents had broken in the door there at 7am Friday morning, breaking an aquarium in the process.

The Federal search warrants appear to be focusing on seizing electronic devices, international travel, and allegeing “co-conspirators.” They do not authorize arrests.

The search warrant for 1823 Riverside, the residence of activist Mick Kelly, sought information “regarding ability to pay for his own travel” to Palestine and Columbia from 2000 to today. The warrant hyped potential documents indicating any contacts/facilitation with FARC, PFLP, and Hezbollah – what it called “FTOs” or “foreign terrorist organizations”. It mentioned seeking information on the alleged “facilitation of other individuals in the US to travel to Colombia, Palestine and any other foreign location ins upport of foreign terrorist organizations including but not limited to FARC, PFLP and Hezbollah”.

The wording of the warrant appears to indicate the government seeks to create divisions among social justice and international soldarity activists by hyping alleged connections to what they call “foreign terrorist organizations.”

The warant also sought information on “Kelly’s travel to and from and presence in MN, and other foreign countries [sic] to which Kelly has taveleled as part of his work in FRSO [Freedom Road Socialist Organization”, as well as materials related to his finances and the finances of FRSO, and all computer and electronic devices.

The federal warrant was signed by Judge Susan Nelson at 3:30pm yesterday, September 23.

FBI Raids on Activists In Progress Now (Friday morning)

This just in from Fire on the Mountain blog:

I just saw a Facebook post from Steff Yorek, whom I have known for many years, in Minneapolis. It reads, in full,

The FBI is executing a search warrant on our house right now. The claim to be looking for evidence of material support for so-called Foreign Terrorist Organizations. The FARC and PFLP are mentioned by name. This is taking place in multiple cities across the country. I have been served with a warrant to appear before a Grand Jury. It's an outrageous fishing expedition.

Steff further reports that they have lawyered up--and clammed up.

I have no way of knowing how broad this attack is and whether it is limited to supporters of the Colombian and Palestinian struggles, or if other groups on the FTO list are included. Please post any further information you have as a comment, and if they knock on your door, warrant or no, remember that YOU ARE NOT LEGALLY REQUIRED TO SAY ANYTHING TO THEM.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Fundamentalism, feminism and anti-fascism

The following of interest from the london anarcha feminist koelektiv:

June saw the fascist and undeniably opportunistic English Defence League (EDL) announce plans to march through Whitechapel in apparent protest at a planned United Kingdom – Islamic Conference (UK-IC) at the Troxy Centre, a conference which would see extreme Islamic fundamentalist speakers espousing their hate of Jews, women and homosexuals. Past years have witnessed the growth of Saudi-funded political Islam in Tower Hamlets, oppressing local Muslim communities and destroying Asian cultures, promoting repression of women, and beginning to dominate the local authority.

The rise in religious fundamentalism, whatever the religion may be, poses a serious and very real threat to women, who are seen as crucial in representing and transmitting the supposedly unchanging morals and traditions of the whole community. Women who fail to conform to so-called traditional family values are portrayed as placing the honour, well-being and future of the whole society or community at risk. The control of women’s minds and bodies is, therefore, at the heart of fundamentalist agendas everywhere and is something that must be challenged.

In the run up to that Sunday in Whitechapel, women’s bodies became a battleground on which both sides fought. “They (Muslims) want all women in burqhas” proclaimed the EDL and “we’re not fascist, we’ve got a LGBT division, we just care about the wimmin”. Anti-EDL groups and individuals also used women in their ideological battle; rumours were circulated that local Muslim women had been attacked and raped by the EDL, resulting in a large angry turn-out when the EDL youth division came for a “quiet” drink in Whitechapel.

A group called Women Against Fascism in their call-out on Indymedia for the mobilisation against the EDL, recognised how women are used in this battle without challenging these pervasive paternalistic attitudes to women. “The women who are against fascism are the friends, girlfriends, wives, sisters, aunties, grandmothers and mothers of young men who feel that they are being provoked into violence by the EDL. Boys of school age feel that they have to defend their mothers and sisters etc from the EDL who want to demonstrate in Whitechapel.” Their call-out made no mention of the UK- IC speakers.

Unite Against Fascism also concentrated solely on the EDL in their mobilisations against the far-right, ignoring the woman-hating, homophobic ideology of the right-wing Islamists and calling all those who pointed out the bigotry of the UK-IC speakers, and the need to oppose both sides equally, including anarchists, as islamaphobic and racist.

The UK-IC conference was thankfully cancelled and the EDL called off their planned demonstration in the area. The UAF still marched, unsurprisingly refusing to critique or even acknowledge the fundamentalism of the UK-IC or the right-wing islamist ideology of some of those who marched with them.

The EDL are a serious threat. Fascism must be challenged and stopped, but we cannot do this at the expense of challenging those with fundamentalist agendas. Fundamentalism and fascism both deserve our contempt, and this is the position that anarchists must take.

Class struggle, community cohesion and militant physical opposition are the only effective means to repel fascism and the conditions in which it flourishes and this may mean making political alliances with those who we consider to be religious moderates or even conservative secularists. But how do we as feminists/ anarchists navigate the awkward space between our secular views and those of even moderate religious persuasion? Paternalistic, misogynistic attitudes to women and homophobia are not just confined to realm of religious fundamentalism, it is unfortunately prevalent across all sections of society, including among those who consider themselves moderates, progressives or secular. Can we really, as anarchist women, work with and ally ourselves with those who have anti-woman, anti-queer attitudes, traditions and practices even if it is with the purpose of coming together as working class people to fight fascism?

Perhaps we need to use these times when we do connect with our neighbours over a common enemy despite religious, cultural or political differences, to raise our concerns about and contempt of misogyny, racism and homophobia, as well as pushing an anti-capitalist class-based critique of the state. In this battle against fascism, we must take care that we do not reinforce or accommodate patriarchal attitudes and so must confidently encourage dialogue that confronts and challenges the sometimes anti-women, anti-queer attitudes of even moderate people of faith and secularists.


Now is the time for discussion on fundamentalism and fascism and how we can organise and oppose both in an anti-sexist, inclusive way. Feminists must, while fighting all forms of religious fundamentalism, develop targeted feminist campaigns to take on the growth of political Islam and its misogyny, authoritarianism and distortion of the genuine variety of Muslim cultures. We must provide young people with alternatives–feminist, anarchist, secular and participatory–to the great big reactionary mosques and synagogues and churches. In our fight against fascism, we’ve got to be prepared to take on all forms of religious fundamentalism and manifestations of misogyny in everyday life.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Support and Solidarity for Juan, G20 Arrestee

Update: Support and Solidarity for Juan *

Juan Pablo Lepore, 28, was arrested in Montreal on September 2nd for accusations of mischief at the G20 Summit in Toronto this June. The crown has refused his release on bail during his first appearance on Friday, September 3rd. Juan is still detained and his next appearance in court will be Friday, September 17th.

"Juan has passed 15 days in prison and could spend months more, all because he is suspected of having committed a misdeameanor that, lets remember, was political in nature. The bail conditions imposed on G20 detainees are scandalous for a judicial system claiming to be democratic!" exclaims Marie-Ève Blais, member of the Friends of Juan Committee that was created after his arrest. Juan Pablo is an Argentinian documentary film-maker and independent journalist, visiting Canada for several months. He grew curious about this country while collaborating in Argentina on an documentary with the Canadian Nicolas Van Caloen, and came to visit Nicolas here, while returning occasionally to Argentina for professional occasions.

"All these arbitrary detentions aim to justify the colossal security expenses for the G20, they are red herrings. We hope to see Juan and all the other detainees freed as soon as possible" concludes Nicolas Van Caloen, friend and media collaborator of Juan. Juan went to Toronto in June to document the resistance movement to the G20, publishing to the alternative online medias "" and "".

Juan dedicates his work as a videographer and journalist to the documentation of resistance movement converging, like in Toronto in June, to demonstrate against the criminal policys implemented by institutions like the G20, the IMF or the World Bank. He also documents the daily resistance of Argentinian communities facing the consequences of the same policies, notably in his documentary project Semillas (Seeds): "We try to spread these seeds at the right moment to aid resistance groups that are constructing a new society based on social and environmental justice, horizontality, solidarity between peoples and the defence of the Earth." */

-- The Friends of Juan Pablo Lepore/

* *Media contacts: Nicolas Van Caloen *514-621-8149 in Toronto friday
or Marie-Ève Blais: 514 746 019

Monday, September 13, 2010

Montreal Cops Sought Army Advice After 2008 Riots

File this under "not surprising, but important":

On October 30 and 31, 2008, Montreal's Assistance Chief of Police Pierre Brochet met with a Canadian Army commander to discuss working together. Mr. Brochet wanted to take advantage of the Army's experience on the ground in similar situations.

"Events such as those in Montreal-North, they push all emergency services to reexamine how they intervene. When things get out of hand like that, they teach police an enormous number of things, about how to be more effective next time," Sylvain Lemay, in charge of operational planning for the Montreal Police Department, explained to

The "events" referred to, of course, are the night's rioting that followed the police murder of Fredy villanueva, a teenager from a working-class immigrant family in Montreal North. Not only was Villanueva murdered in a case of white police panic ("All these brown children, our lives were in danger!"), but two of his friends were also shot. Their crime? Playing dice in a park, and getting in the face of the cops who came to harass them, and who tried to arrest Fredy's older brother. The riots that evening were significant by Canadian standards, and one cop was shot (non-fatally).

Some bumper sticker i once saw said, "Life Isn't A Dress Rehearsal", and this is certainly true. The meaning being, act for real now, stop putting things off.

Can't argue with that.

But we also need to ponder cop Lemay's words, "how to be effective next time." The enemy and their lackeys know that there will always be a next time, not because they're nefariously evil (tho they are that too), but because they think institutionally, and historically. Every success like every failure provides an opportunity to learn, to draw lessons, to prepare to do better next time. In that sense, today is always a dress rehearsal for tomorrow, so learn your shit.

True for our side as well as theirs.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Free Jock Palfreeman

Comrades in europe have asked me to pass this on:

Jock Palfreeman is a 23 year old Australian who had the courage to stand up against 16 Nazis on a night out in Sofia, Bulgaria. He witnessed the fascists chasing and attacking two young Roma boys. Jock ran to the boys' aid, he did his best to keep the Nazis at bay by waving a knife at them but they attacked him. Jock was left with nowhere to run and had no choice but to defend himself. One of the Nazis was stabbed and killed and another was injured. The Roma boys ran away.

Jock has since been tried and sentenced for murder and attempted murder. He has been sentenced to 20 years imprisonment and has been fined £220,000. [More details of his case can be found at]

Jock has its appeal on 21st of October- it is his only chance to walk free. We need to do everything we can in order to get him out of there. An international Day of Action for Jock on has been called on the 19th. If you can organise an event in your area please contact: .

It is also of vital importance to keep up the pressure with protest messages and smaller actions up till this time. Please distribute this call widely, put it on your blogs, websites, forums, email lists.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Support Kevin “Rashid” Johnson

i strongly encourage visitors to this blog to read the following call to support Kevin Rashid Johnson, put out by comrades Kim and Than.

As somebody who (tries to!) correspond with Rashid - we're working on getting a book of his writings out this Fall - i can personally attest to the fact that his mail is indeed being fucked with. Just the other day i received two letters i had sent him returned to me by the prison with a note saying "no approval" and "unauthorized correspondence". & of course i'm not the only one, this is just one example of the ongoing interference, part of a policy aimed at keeping Rashid and other politically active prisoners isolated.

So please take the time to read the following, and to write a few letters in support of this comrade.

A letter writing campaign is being launched to lend support to Kevin Rashid Johnson. Rashid is incarcerated in Red Onion State Prison which is located in southwest Virginia. He is a member of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party-Prison Chapter. (To clarify, this group has nothing to do with the racist group, the New Black Panthers). He became political during his time at Red Onion. He is very outspoken and a active organizer. Because of this there has been virtually continual retaliation against him.

Housed at a super max facility which entails being locked in a cell 23/7, more or less continual isolation, all inmates undergo trauma. But because of his revolutionary politics, Rashid is under exceptional pressure. He regularly has his mail withheld. Mail is a lifeline for these folks and to have it confiscated is psychologically damaging. He is denied food and medical attention. On occasions too numerous to recount he has been beaten and tortured by correction officers. He often is put in 5 point restraint. This entails strapping a naked prisoner to a bare steel frame bed with their hands and feet shackled. Prisoners are left for days in this condition.

If inmates have no support on the outside these abuses go unchecked. Rashid has asked that some action be taken on his behalf. If you could please send a letter of support to Rashid and to Warden Tracy Ray informing him that you have heard of Rashid’s situation and you demand he be given his mail. Receiving mail is a major concern for Rashid.

Virginia has a reputation as the worst state prison system in the nation. It is notorious for the abuses that occur. Super max institutions are the absolute worst. In southwest VA we have Wallen’s Ridge and Red Onion. Folks who used to work in the coal fields now have the prisons to work in. The restructuring of the coal industry killed their jobs and their area. Prisons were built on blown up mountains. Tensions between the economically deprived white rural prison employees and the mostly Black urban inmates runs very high. Racism is overt. These places are powder kegs.

Rashid and the other Panthers at these institutions believe it is the capitalist system which oppresses us all. They know the root of gangs was to unite communities to “police” themselves. With this in mind they educate fellow prisoners to come together and end gang related fighting. The system seeks to divide the prisoners so any show of unity is a great threat to them.

We can vouch for Rashid. He is a committed and honest person . You may send one letter of support or end up with a relationship of letter writing. Rashid is a consummate debater. Your support is urgently needed. I will point out that writing to a political prisoner, who is actively monitored by the FBI and assaulted on their behalf, will alert the “authorities” to your identity. You could use an alias or a PO box. We use our names and address, but you have to ascertain your own comfort level.

Solidarity Always, kim and than grove

Write to any or all of the following:

Kevin Rashid Johnson #1007485
Red Onion State Prison
P.O. Box 1900
Pound, VA 24279

Tracy S. Ray, Chief Warden
Red Onion State Prison
P. O. Box 970
Pound, VA 24279

Gene M. Johnson, Director
Virginia Department of Corrections
P.O. Box 26963
Richmond, VA 23261-6963

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Reflections on the Demise of Bash Back!

The following article, "Reflections on the Demise of Bash Back!", is from the recently released zine Pink and Black Revolution #6, available for download here.

Bash Back! was started in 2007 as a network of queer anarchists to have a specifically queer presence at the Democratic National Convention and Republican National Convention protests in the summer of 2008 noticing this absence at past mobilizations. Bash Back! quickly expanded, with chapters across the United States. One of the main themes of the 2010 Bash Back! convergence was the assertion “Bash Back! is dead.” I would like to offer some thoughts on this assertion and its implications.

On the Network
Bash Back! formed as a network with a specific goal in mind: the DNC/RNC convention protests. At the time of BB!’s formation, there were no national organizations/networks specifically for queer anarchists. While long-standing queer anarchist groups have existed in specific cities and regions for years, these groups have a local focus. Bash Back! formed to fill a need for a national network of queer anarchists, which was demonstrated by its rapid growth and popularity. The establishment of a national network was deemed useful at the time for its ability to gather a large number of anarchist queers in the resistance of the previously mentioned conventions/summits. This also demonstrates the desire for a large number people to rally specifically around this identity.

Points of unity were adopted and more chapters popped up across the country. The only requirement for membership was adopting the points of unity, which led to the creation of a decentralized, very informal network of chapters (with some international presence). The structure of the network also facilitated quick expansion, because it did not operate on a traditional, formal principles of organization and instead focused on building a network between autonomous local chapters. Emphasis was placed upon taking action. Ideological and tactical unity was not prioritized beyond the points of unity. Even these points offered only a basic framework of broadly defined anti-oppression, anti-assimilation, liberation, and diversity of tactics. Bash Back!, as a network rather than a formal organization (such as a federation), did not make any formal attempts to define its political analysis.

The local chapters that comprised Bash Back! were far from homogeneous. Chapters were linked only by a name and perhaps some social connections, with each chapter being unique in how they formed, how they operated, and what they did. For this reason, it is difficult to speak of Bash Back! members as a distinct group, since there was no ideological unity implied by membership in Bash Back!, nor was membership controlled or tracked in any way. Some chapters were more active than others, with the Midwest having a high concentration of especially active chapters.

While there was no central organization for Bash Back!, there have still been national convergences after the founding convergence. These are different from conventions or conferences, as participation was not limited to members of the organization, and no decisions about the network itself are made. Rather, the convergences focused on the strengthening of the network in an informal sense.

On Tension and the Death of Bash Back!
“Is our violence one of substance or of image?”
- “Questions to be Addressed Before the Bash Back! Convergence in Denver”

Once BB! began its rapid expansion (after the summer of 2008), questions of political unity began to arise, culminating in conflict at the 2009 convergence. One reason is that, with the growth of Bash Back! across the continent, the personal connections that had been established due to the relative proximity of the first chapters were no longer in place. While there has been no formal political position for the organization, informally it seemed that the first chapters had strong affinity with the others, especially tactically. At the 2009 convergence, strong disagreements (both political and tactical) arose between participants in an action. In the absence of strong personal connections, these conflicts were intensified.

By the time of the 2009 convergence, Bash Back! actions that involved multiple chapters had also become less frequent.

Actions were taken by individual chapters, rather than the multiple chapters that had been involved in the DNC/RNC protests, the Mt. Hope Church action, and the Avenge Duanna campaign. While it is impossible to pinpoint a reason for this decline, it is likely that the decrease in multichapter actions contributed to the declining tactical unity.

The formation of personal connections from taking action together declined as BB! grew. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as it could indicate a shift of focus to working locally or to clandestine activity. In any case, it points to a weakening of the inter-chapter bonds that had characterized Bash Back!’s origins.

Political and tactical differences, unable to be resolved by any organizational process within Bash Back!, grew into competing visions of the organization. At the 2010 convergence, this culminated in a discussion regarding the future of BB!. The competing visions of Bash Back! centered on the organizational form of the group. Some people advocated an organizational form more akin to a federation, with formalized relations between chapters and a stronger emphasis on political/theoretical unity. Others claimed that Bash Back! is dead/ought to die as an organization.

Many points would come into question later: the question of organization versus anti-organizationalism, affirming queer identity versus negating identity, the nonviolent versus those calling for a diversity of tactics, autonomy versus revolt, building an autonomous queer liberation that displaces state/heterosexual power versus destroying the existent. It is necessary here to make clear the role of identity in creating these tensions. Those who felt that self-identification was the necessary basis for entering into struggle clashed with those who saw understandability and identification as necessarily the recuperation of struggle.

Bash Back! was declared by some people to be dead immediately before the 2010 convergence in Denver. While the veracity of the statement is still a point of contention, the idea of Bash Back! being dead provides an excellent starting point for a discussion of the role of Bash Back!.

As an informal network, BB! was never focused on the tasks of formal organizations, such as signing up members, conducting political education, or defining campaigns or strategic directions. These tasks, if they were to be done, were left up to each chapter. Thus it is difficult to speak of BB! as a whole, because it did not have explicit organizational positions or policies.

Indeed, the chapters across the country varied in size, activity, and organization. Some chapters openly recruited while others were established from preexisting networks of friends and comrades. The wide differences between chapters makes discussing BB! problematic, because what constituted BB! was never clearly defined beyond an agreement with the points of unity. The ease of joining BB! allowed for tremendous growth in visibility and numbers, with actions across the country being claimed by BB! chapters and members.

On Organization
“If we are ever to have a member-list, count us off of it.”
- “Questions to be Addressed Before the Bash Back! Convergence in Denver”

The extremely decentralized organizational form that Bash Back! adopted at its inception brought with it limits and trade-offs. These limits, coupled with the identity-based nature of BB!, can provide some theoretical insight into the rise and fall of Bash Back!.

Political and theoretical unity was not a priority for Bash Back!, with action and networking as the main impetus and expression. While this position is not inherently problematic, the internal contradictions of queer identity resulted in complications in the attempt to build a network of queer anarchists. Because queer is widely understood to be an explicitly social identity rather than an explicitly political identity, the actual political views of the people who constituted Bash Back! varied tremendously. This occurred despite the anarchist principles of BB!; anarchist was used in a sense of a passive political identity, rather than asserting any specific political unity. The lack of political affinity became problematic when membership was based on a social identity. This limited the options that Bash Back! had for organizational form, as any shift towards formalized structure such as a federation model would be hampered by the lack of ideological unity amongst the loosely-defined members.

Bash Back!’s organizational form also had implications for the longevity of the group. Lacking strongly defined membership, delegated responsibilities, and specified strategy and goals, BB! had no processes by which to sustain itself in any official sense. As stated earlier, the group was founded with an emphasis on networking for a specific set of actions (the DNC/RNC protests), that is, to fulfill a specific need.

Rather than focusing on organizational permanence for its own sake, Bash Back! relied on the minimum amount of structure needed to achieve its goal of building a network of queer anarchists.

Organization in response to a specific need makes organizational permanence unimportant once the need has been satisfied. If organizational permanence becomes a secondary concern, then the demise of an organization is not undesirable. Indeed, dissolution is a preferable alternative to continuing an organization for its own sake. The product of a shift from a highly decentralized network to a more formal organization would irrevocably change the character of the organization. The desire to attempt such a radical restructuring of an existing organization indicates that a premium has been placed on the name and legacy of the organization, instead of the actions that created its reputation. If an organization is not meeting people’s needs because of structural limits, it seems more reasonable to discard it.

The End
“Fuck, Just Fuck”
- writing on a wall during action planning debate BB! convergence May 2010

Bash Back!, at its inception, was an attempt to fill a void—the lack of a queer anarchist network. Bash Back! was constituted by the affinity of its participants, and this affinity was expressed through action, and new chapters emerged as a result of a certain resonance carried by Bash Back! actions. While the origins of Bash Back! as a tendency based on resonance fostered its growth, it also allowed for different chapters to re-envision Bash Back! from their particular political desires and local situations of struggle. Bash Back!’s status as a network imposed certain limits; limits that could not be broken without fundamentally shifting from the model that allowed for its initial success.

To speak of the death of an organization generally connotes a negative event, but this relies on the assumption that organizational permanence is a good thing. Moving past this assumption, the question becomes: have we accomplished our goals with this organization, this means, this tool? If the answer is affirmative, if the organization has been pushed to its limits, perhaps its death is deserved. If Bash Back! is dead, the resurgence in anarchist queer activity and networking remains. Relationships now exist that would not have existed had Bash Back! never formed. When our projects reach the end of their usefulness, letting them go is no cause for concern.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Thinking about Warlordism

Nothing guts a thought so much as apologetic blahblahblah stuck at the beginning, letting all and sundry know that you can't stand by what you're about to say without establishing all your escape routes ahead of time. But there you go...

i've spent (wasted?) too many hours over the past week trying to put together some thoughts on warlordism. The basic problem i realized yesterday is that i have a bunch of nifty quotes explaining the concept, and a strong sense of how a warlordism should play out (at least in my imagination), but really not much more. For me, the exercise is abstract to the point that it's more like an intellectual jigsaw puzzle than any kind of sharing of political insights. & while nobody should have anything against the sin of Onan, intellectual masturbation on a blog seems a bit... unseemly...

Warlordism is an all too real problem in lots of people's lives, and as an easily-manipulable force (kind of like fire) it's a tool which has been used by the State all over the world, but as for me personally... i've never had to worry about it in any real intimate kind of way. Hells Angels, street gangs, and such have not been a factor i've had to navigate in my daily life, never mind parastates or rogue militias. This has a lot to do with class, a lot to do with gender, and probably something to do with nation, too.

So there's a flashing neon sign in my mind's eye screaming "SHUT THE FUCK UP" -

- and i would, but -

the issue is that, clueless as i know i am, there seem to be a whole lot of folks at least as clueless as i who are putting forward ideas that not only boggle my mind, but make me worry. Not so much for the the folks putting forward these ideas today, but more about where those ideas are going to go and where they'll end up tomorrow.

What i'm talking about is this difference i seem to be sensing between insurrection and revolution. This idea that what we should be all about is destroying that which exists first, and either wait til later to worry about creating something new (the weak version of this argument) or else actively oppose the creation of anything new from our side, instead embracing the transience of any "free space" (the strong version).

In the past, i used to advocate this position too - i remember selling an anarchist newspaper on the street and having "regular" people repeatedly ask me a very sensible question: "What do you propose putting in place of the State?" And like a moron i'd say "I just trust people to be able to build their own communities and handle issues on their own once the State is driven out." Cute, but dumb.

But cut to the present. While they may or may not be intended literally, these lines from Tiqqun are representative of what many are thinking - and not only "insurrectionists":

Bodies aggregate. Breathe again. Conspire.
Whether such zones are condemned to be suppressed militarily really
does not matter. What matters, each time, is to preserve a sure escape
And then re-aggregate
(How Is It To Be Done?, p.14)
This "it does not matter if you're suppressed militarily" is an implicit, and sometimes explicit, theme in a lot of rad left theory, and not just of the romantic-insurrectionist variety. It is there in focussing on "the attack" and ignoring the question of how to liberate territory, but i think in another form it was also there even in classical foco theory, where provoking military repression was integrated into guerilla strategy. And of course it's there is subconscious form in all those left currents which simply feel entitled to not think in military terms, as if military struggle were some condiment they could simply choose not to squeeze onto their burger. "Would you like armed struggle with that insurrection, sir?"

i think one part of the appeal of insurrectionist ideas is simply a realistic appraisal of what happened in the 20th century - where nobody managed to maintain liberated territory, where every revolution was either integrated into capitalism through economic/military defeat or by its own new State - and also an understandable reaction to the fact that with all the State's technology and material resources tying yourself (or your "war machine") to the defense of a specific piece of territory seems suicidal. Because while the enemy may be vulnerable anywhere, he is equally able to able to impose himself anywhere, and with force unprecedented in all of human history.

So in a very simple form, this constitutes a reflection of the times, an adaptation to the fact that

Sliding around the government pre-occupation with "more important" crises, moving and hiding amidst the chaotic clash of different players, the oppressed learned that in the physics of this new political universe we really can do much more than we thought we could - while others, don't forget, can do the same to us. (Night-Vision: Illuminating War and Class on the Neo-Colonial Terrain, by Butch Lee and Red Rover, p. 172)

So in that sense the embrace of fluidity, anonymity and "zones of opacity" all represent a step forward. Nevertheless, Tiqqun's "does not really matter" line is maddening - military occupation is no fun for those who are stuck in an area, who were not in on the plan, who have no "escape route". We know that as in all "regular" wars, most of these casualties, these "third persons" - those who fail to make it out the escape hatch - will be women and children. As always.

But that's not what i want to zero in on. Rather, what i want to focus on is what else can happen in that "chaotic clash of different players", for Tiqqun and many others, for all their claims to have broken with the past, seem to still think that there are only two possibilities - the State takes an area, or else it's a liberated zone (tho of course they'd have a more poetic name for these alternatives). "Military occupation" will come in the form of the enemy we know, with its armies or cops. That's their assumption - and i think they're wrong. What i want to think about is something hinted at when Lee and Rover warned us that "others, don't forget, can do the same to us."

There is an organic tendency towards warlordism in communities that have tasted capitalism and patriarchy and colonialism. Even oppressed communities. Many years ago, in a form that probably seems dated to some of today's rebels, Butch Lee provided a useful definition of this term:

Warlordism is a society without any real civil government, a chaos where gangs and armies of armed men not only have a free run but are the only true authority. It's what you see in much of the Third World [...] or, increasingly, in New Afrika. Warlordism is created in the social vacuum when an oppressed people have thrown off colonialism or made direct colonial rule impossible, but do not yet have national liberation and effective self-rule. It is a natural form for neo-colonialism. 
And as explained by L.B. in their 1999 essay "Some Preliminary Notes on Class Structure" in the 8th Route Readers Club maozine:

Warlordism is a phenomenon that arises in times of social instability and transition, when the former methods of social control and "legitimate" state power have been weakened. It consists of groups of armed men who forcibly fill the power vacuum left by the weakness or withdrawal of the state's army or police forces. Although warlord groups may at times have popular support, they are inflexibly authoritarian formations, usually organized around personal military and nepotistic loyalty to a single leader.

Drive out "the oppressor" and its State and you don't necessarily have "freedom" or even a "secessionist constitutency" (to use some flowery term), all you're guaranteed is a power vacuum. Perhaps a community or society which had not been integrated into capitalism yet would be able to fill this vacuum organically with communism or matriarchy or anarchy, and things would proceed nicely... perhaps... but where do you know of such a society? More often than not, capitalism corrupted societies with missionaries and traders and patriarchy before conquering them militarily. But regardless, for us its a moot point, we certainly don't inhabit any such organically classless communities.

So what happens in a power vacuum? It gets filled. The 20th century overflows with examples of how bad things can get when we fill it - "real existing socialism", anyone? - but learning this doesn't mean we've solved the problem. Not nearly. And a blithe dismissal of the question is neither radical nor farsighted, it simply reveals the continuing appeal of naivete.

For some people at some points in their lives, "the attack" and the psychological liberation it sparks may be the real point of it all, communities and issues and casualties all being props in this essentially internal drama of self-liberation. This may be snotty of me to say, and i know this isn't where most are at, but it does seem to be a logical corollary to the obsession with violence and riots as ends-unto-themselves that one can find in some insurrectionist texts. It is worth remembering what Crimethinc stated in their critique of insurrectionism, namely that

Resistance to oppressors is praiseworthy in itself, but much resistance takes place in support of other authoritarian powers. This is all too familiar in other parts of the world, where illegal violence on the part of fascists, paramilitaries, gangs, drug cartels, mafias, and authoritarian revolutionary movements is an essential aspect of domination. Aspiring authoritarians often take the lead in attacking reigning authorities precisely in order to absorb and co-opt popular unrest. Rioting per se is not always liberating—Kristallnacht was a riot too. (Say You Want An Insurrection, Crimethinc Ex-Workers Collective)

And as Alex Gorrion notes in their extensive critique of the "Invisible Party":

Much of the antisocial violence in public space, violence which is romanticized in several Tiqqun texts, is not so much a rebellion as an autonomous attempt to impose hierarchies in miniature. It may well be that the majority of casualties in this global civil war are the bodies that have fallen in the civil war being fought within the ranks of the Imaginary Party. (A cartography of The Coming Insurrection, Tiqqun, and their Party)
This "autonomous attempt to impose hierarchies in miniature", when allowed to develop in a zone temporarily abandoned by the State, takes the form of warlordism. Rule by local mafia, by religious cultists, by the toughest guys on the block. Don't think Ursula K. LeGuin's The Disposessed, that's several stages away - our next chapter will look a lot more like Octavia Butler's Parable series.

This poses a challenge which i have not seen answered anywhere on the radical left, namely how to drive out the State and suppress organic tendencies towards warlordism all the while not erecting a new structure of exploitation or repression. A century ago German anarchist Gustav Landauer stated that "The new topia arises to save the utopia, but actually causes its demise," and insisted that this was unavoidable, part of an eternal historical cycle of moments of freedom alternating with ages of despair. Perhaps. This would seem to go along with insurrectionary pessimism regarding liberated territory.

But warlordism ups the ante, implying that even if no new "topia" is created to save the "utopia", that ambitious groups of men will come together to profit from an open field - and then just watch how quick utopia can become dystopia. Insurrectionism as it exists, i would suggest, is not nearly pessimistic enough.

While it is true that no one on the left has solved this problem, i actually think insurrectionist naivete is worse than many other approaches, because it seems ideologically predisposed to deny there even is a problem. As it exists at present, insurrectionary anarchist thought thinks away from how to deal with a power vacuum, because its an insurrectionist axiom that creating such vacuums is the entire point. Furthermore, the methods proposed - violence that is intended to be attractive to and imitated by people who do not necessarily have to be anarchists themselves or even aware of insurrectionist ideas - seem particularly fitted to a strategy that does not wish to see further than the first victorious battle with the State.

Just as capitalism has a "natural" ideological form - bourgeois democracy - which it tends towards even though it often fails to get there, warlordism also has a natural ideological form. And it isn't insurrectionary anarchism.

Fascism is warlordism's natural ideology. Not the fascism of the Third Reich, of mass society and the Volkswagen, but a fascism that still has place in its heart for an Auschwitz or a Kristallnacht. In their book Right-Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort, authors Matthew Lyons and Chip Berlet pointed out that for many on the far right the goal of a decentralized "social totalitarianism" now held place of preference over the strong State commonly associated with their tradition. Social totalitarianism would be "administered mainly through local governments and private institutions such as the church and the family, rather than the classical fascist goal of a highly centralized nation-state." (249)

They observed:

While such decentralist policies may seem incompatible with full-blown fascism, we see them partly as defensive adaptations and partly as expressions of a new social totalitarianism. Industrial-era totalitarianism relied on the nation-state; in the era of outsourcing, deregulation, and global mobility, social totalitarianism looked to local authorities, private bodies (such as churches), and direct mass activism to enforce repressive control. (267)

Such "social totalitarianism" may be how the warlord's power appears in his own eyes, and those of his crew, his church, his business franchise. At "best" this might resemble a high-tech version of euro-feudalism, with a warrior caste living off of a subjugated populace - at worse it seems like a barely-updated version of those white invaders who settled beyond the borders of their colonial states, carrying out their own grassroots genocide off the books and on their own.

Again, Parable of the Talents and Parable of the Sower, gifts from the late Octavia Butler, may be helpful to see what is being talked about. But we don't need science fiction, such examples abound in this world, right now, and have for some time now. Warlordism is what both fed into and was suppressed by the Taliban in pre-911 Afghanistan. Warlordism is the Lords Resistance Army carrying out genocide in Uganda. Warlordism is Indigenous communities being temporarily abandoned to gangster elements, until people are so desperate that they welcome the colonial police back as the lesser of two evils. And warlordism can exist enmeshed in cities in the heart of the beast, without disrupting capitalism at all - as J. Sakai recounted some ten years ago:

The old Black industrial working class has been largely wiped out, and warlord armies and gangs given informal state permission to rule over much of the inner city at gunpoint. A few years ago i  went home with a comrade. When we got off the bus, all the passengers started walking home down the middle of the street. My friend explained that all the sidewalks were "owned" by one or another dope gang or dealer, reserved for their crew and customers.  You  walked in the street or you got taken down by a 9mm. While the new Black middle class takes itself out of the game, flees the old communities and disperses itself into the suburbs. Why would capitalists need fascism? (When Race Burns Class: Settlers Revisited)
Capitalism may not need fascism, but as i have said, fascism is the ideology warlordism tends towards. With its wild warrior ethos and its scorn for "feminine" bourgeois civility, warlordism has always been the social myth that traditional fascism has dangled before its men - both as an enticement and also as a threat aimed back on "their" women.

While insurrectionism may be at the opposite end of the political spectrum, no two forms of human thought are so unalike that they cannot be affected by one another. Subjectively fierce opponents of fascism can nevertheless produce and promote ideas that objectively are politically entangled with the far right.

Twenty years ago, former Klan chief Louis Beam popularized the concept of "leaderless resistance" within the North American far right. Beam explained at the time that he was in his turn drawing on an article written thirty years earlier by Colonel Ulius Louis Amoss:

the question arises "What method is left for those resisting state tyranny?" The answer comes from Col. Amoss who proposed the "Phantom Cell" mode of organization. Which he described as Leaderless Resistance. A system of organization that is based upon the cell organization, but does not have any central control or direction, that is in fact almost identical to the methods used by the Committees of Correspondence during the American Revolution. Utilizing the Leaderless Resistance concept, all individuals and groups operate independently of each other, and never report to a central headquarters or single leader for direction or instruction, as would those who belong to a typical pyramid organization. 

The far right had the wind in its sails at that time, and some anarchists were so ignorant of history and mesmerized by a klansman promoting the autonomous affinity group model that they declared leaderless resistance to be "one of the most radical and revolutionary concepts ever imagined by a white man" ("Chiapas and Montana: Tierra Y Libertad", James Murray in Race Traitor #8, Winter 1998). While this was not a common view amongst anarchists, it was not completely isolated, either, and it resonated even with some of those who could not stomach Murray's proposed alliance with the far right. The naive faith that "collapse" or "chaos", the breakdown of federal or central state power, will naturally serve the interests of the oppressed is what i've been trying to call attention to in this post, dealing with insurrectionists who are really a young tendency today in 2010. But an anterior echo of this naive embrace of "ungovernability" can be found in Murray's musing from twelve years ago that,

The militias' grass-rooted nonorganization makes it impossible to believe they could agree amongst themselves long enough to ever set up any revolutionary government structure above the county level. All the better, we have no need to fear an(other) Aryan Republic. The militias will never overthrow the government in the vanguardist style. However, it is within the realm of possibility that they could very well make large portions of North America ungovernable. Whether one would favor such a nonstate of affairs depends to a large degree on how much one has to lose. The residents of Starr County, Texas, south central Los Angeles and north Idaho might agree it would be an improvement.

Needless to say, Murray's undifferentiated populations of "Starr County, Texas, south central Los Angeles and north Idaho" have no gender, no nation, no "race" or class divisions amongst themselves, or at least none worth mentioning. They're as anonymous, as identityless, as the ideal subjects (or nonsubjects, or "whatever singularities") of some insurrectionist texts. But we know that in real life such zones of "ungovernability" are not really ungoverned, they're just governed in a lawless, arbitrary manner, by whomever has the biggest guns and - more importantly - the most effective social organization - and this latter is often the product of collective identities and power.

There's an interesting point made in the recent Crimethinc retrospective, which provides an up-to-date corollary to Beam's aping of the affinity group form. They note that

Even fascists are trying to get in on decentralization and autonomy. In Europe, “Autonomous Nationalists” have appropriated radical aesthetics and formats, utilizing anticapitalist rhetoric and black bloc tactics. This is not simply a matter of our enemies attempting to disguise themselves as us, though it certainly muddies the waters: it also indicates an ideological split in fascist circles as the younger generation attempts to update its organizational models for the 21st century. Fascists in the US and elsewhere are engaged in the same project under the paradoxical banner of “National Anarchism”; if they succeed in persuading the general public that anarchism is a form of fascism, our prospects will be bleak indeed.

What does it mean if fascists, the foremost proponents of hierarchy, can employ the decentralized structures we pioneered? The 20th century taught us the consequences of using hierarchical means to pursue supposedly non-hierarchical ends. The 21st century may show us how supposedly non-hierarchical means can produce hierarchical ends. (Fighting in the new Terrain: What's Changed since the 20th Century, Crimethinc Ex-Workers Collective)

Such "using non-hierarchical means to produce hierarchical ends" is one way of looking at the kind of exploitation and oppression that can coexist with zones of crisis and with horizontal tactics of social disruption. If this is a spreading phenomenon, it's because old-style colonialism and imperialism tried to keep a finger in every pie, maximum penetration of every struggle, because if your nation-state wasn't be there, another would be. This was simply further enhanced in the Cold War era, when Soviet and Chinese imperialism went toe-to-toe with one another, and with the United States. But that was then - while national economies still exist, they're no longer the corporate homes they once were; production spans continents, and the old national reality of colonialism has given way to neo-colonialism. As capital has imagined itself unmoored from territory, so have the dreams of rebels left and right. As Butch Lee and Red Rover explained:

The previous capitalist world order was bi-polar, with everyone visible massed around opposing poles of oppressor vs. oppressed. It was colonialist vs. colonizer, white vs. black, invader vs. indigenous. But at it's essence, the growing chaos of the neo-colonial world order is that many different peoples - armed with conflicting capitalist agendas - have been loosed to fight it out. As transnational capitalism hides behind & backs first one side and then the other - or not - to indirectly use the chaos they see no class interest in containing. (Night-Vision: Illuminating War and Class on the Neo-Colonial Terrain, 161)

Or as L.B. explained,

Warlordism is on the rise today because neocolonialism is reshaping the global social order: breaking down national boundaries, "de-settlerizing" settler states, replacing colonial administration of the Third World with local neocolonial structures, raising up new middle classes in the periphery, etc.  ("Some Preliminary Notes on Class Structure" L.B.)
Viewed from the inside and from below, warlordism exhibits all the features of primitive accumulation, of new ambitious classes bootstrapping their own ascent through outright theft and murder. Their dream, of course, is not exodus from the system, but integration into capitalism on more favorable terms.

While warlordism is a particularly raw form of social control, it is actually just a local, mobile prototype of state power. Successful warlords can and do become the rulers of nation states. It is a relatively small step from neo-colonial warlord to neo-colonial dictator when imperialism decides it needs to regularize social life in a particular part of the world. For instance, the Taliban started as a warlord organization, but is now [written in 1999, pre-911! -ST] treated as a national government, praised by some capitalists for bringing commercial "stability" to Afghanistan.  ("Some Preliminary Notes on Class Structure" L.B.)


The rise of warlordism does not imply loss of control by imperialism--far from it. It reflects, instead, adoption of a different type of control, overall more sophisticated than the old colonialism's relatively-static micro-management of the colonial world. Imperialism is learning that it is much more efficient, and profitable, to let local and regional forces compete for control of markets, for resources and for imperialist approval. There's nothing like "grass roots" initiative by local oppressors to expedite the extraction of profit. And warlords, grounded in the details of local conditions, have proven their effectiveness in breaking down "obsolete" regimes, or repressing radical activity. ("Some Preliminary Notes on Class Structure" L.B.)
Catch that - from one point of view (that of its victims), warlordism is a "particularly raw form of social control". But from the point of view of imperialism, of Shell Oil or Blackwater/Xe or the IMF, warlordism is a "more sophisticated" way to extract profit from a world that can no longer be micromanaged.

That newer elements of fascist ideology parallel some of the recent developments in anarchist thought is of course provocative. i can just imagine what turds like Morris Dees would make of this. But rather than suggest any underlying unity between insurrectionists and the "social totalitarianism" of the far right, i think what is revealed are organic attempts by both traditions to grapple with changes in the relationship between capitalism, nation-states, and territory. The fact that people on our side are also thinking this way is good, but the fact that they remain so deeply mired in naive romanticism is a serious deficiency. & as i said before, it worries me.

These notes and this blog post have been fairly choppy, and have relied mainly on quotes drawing attention - perhaps repetitively - to the relationship between neocolonialism, fascism and warlordism. i have failed to include nearly enough real-life examples, and as i said at the beginning, this discussion (on my part, as i believe on the part of most insurrectionists) is divorced from much personal experience. Nevertheless, if you've made it this far (and i'm sure most haven't!) hopefully the above observations, and related texts, will provide some basis for further discussion.